The Quotable Thanissaro

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dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Tue Mar 14, 2017 2:35 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Virtue means abstaining from things that are harmful: no killing, no stealing – that right there is very friendly – no illicit sex, no creating any problems around sex, no lying, no divisive speech, no harsh speech, no idle chatter. This doesn’t mean you don’t say anything critical at all, simply that you’re very careful in your criticisms. Again, the criticism has to come from goodwill. Divisive speech, harsh speech, and using coarse language – those forms of speech show no goodwill at all. You show goodwill by the way you time your words, who’s around when you’re talking – take that into consideration. What kind of mood is the person in right now? Are they in a mood to receive your words or not? If they’re not yet, what can you do to put them in that mood?

In other words, if you want to give constructive criticism, you have to treat your criticism carefully. If it really is valuable criticism, show that it has some value. In that way, other people will give value to your words as well. If you just scatter your criticism around like sand, no one’s going to take it seriously. They’re just going to avoid it. When they see the sandblaster’s coming, they all run away. You’re trying to show care in your actions, so that they’re not harmful, so that even when you do have to say critical things, you do it with an attitude of goodwill. You do it as a friend.
From: How to Be an Admirable Friend by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Wed Mar 15, 2017 2:57 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Remember that one of those passages in the phrase for goodwill is, “May all living beings look after themselves with ease.” It’s not that you’re going to go around to look after everybody else and clean up after them and take care of them and try to please them and always have a close intimate relationship with them. There are some beings, some people, where it’s really hard and it’s too much to ask. You want to focus instead on your own mind, making sure that you have no ill will for anybody and that, at the very least, you’re harmless in your behavior.

When you understand forgiveness in this way, then the practice of forgiveness is a lot easier. And it’s a lot more conducive to becoming free.
From: Forgiveness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Thu Mar 16, 2017 7:54 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote: Don’t compare yourself with others.
Your mind is your mind; their mind is theirs. It’s like being in a hospital and comparing yourself to other patients in the ward. You don’t gain anything from gloating over the fact that you’re recovering from your illness faster than they are from theirs. You don’t gain anything from making yourself miserable because they’re recovering faster than you. You have to focus total attention on your own recovery.
From: With Each & Every Breath: A Guide to Meditation by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Fri Mar 17, 2017 2:15 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:[One of the qualities of a person of integrity] is having a sense of yourself: where your strengths are, where your weaknesses are, where you can trust yourself, where you can’t trust yourself, where you need to work on yourself. You could look in a whole library of books, you could look through the entire Internet, and you would never find that kind of knowledge. You have to look at yourself in action and you also have to be around people of integrity so you get a sense of where you do and don’t measure up — and how they see where you do and don’t measure up. It’s not just a matter of your own opinion. You have to listen to their opinions, be sensitive to their standards. You have to read not only their words, but also their behavior and their body language.

This is why the Buddha put so much emphasis on choosing a good teacher. You want a teacher who has high standards and holds to them, lives by them. That way you get to pick up high standards, too. The sense of your own strengths and weaknesses — and particularly this issue of where you can trust yourself and where you can’t — takes a lot of time and sensitivity to develop. As the Buddha said, you have to be very observant and watch for a long time to gain this kind of knowledge.
From: An Apprenticeship in Integrity by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sat Mar 18, 2017 5:34 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:The Buddha's instructions [to his son Rahula in MN61] teach you to have a healthy attitude toward your mistakes, what we would call a healthy sense of shame, one that comes with a high sense of self-esteem. You're not ashamed of yourself as a person, but you are ashamed of any of your actions that have caused harm because you regard them as beneath you. This healthy shame is actually very helpful on the path because it enables you to see your mistakes as mistakes, and it makes you want to stop making them: the first steps in being able to learn from them.

The Buddha's instructions also teach other healthy attitudes. For example, compassion: You want to make sure that your actions harm no one. Truthfulness: If you make a mistake, you should be willing to admit it to other people. Integrity: Take responsibility for your actions.

In particular, however, the Buddha's instructions here teach the most skillful sense of self to help you on the path: a self that's always willing to learn. If your sense of pride or self-worth is built on the idea that you're already good, you'll have trouble learning, and trouble admitting mistakes. But if your pride or self-worth is built on the idea that you're always willing to learn, then it opens many possibilities for developing more skill. It's the best kind of pride there is, the most useful basis for skillful I-making and my-making.
From: A Healthy Sense of Self by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sun Mar 19, 2017 11:58 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Back in the 19th century when Westerners were beginning to read some of the Buddhist texts, and all saw was suffering, death, aging, illness, As a result, they wrote Buddhism off as a very pessimistic religion. But when they went to Asia, they saw that Buddhists in general were very happy people. The temple fairs, the various observances in the course of the year, were always very happy gatherings. And the Westerners came to the conclusion that Buddhists didn’t understand their own religion. If they really understood what the Buddha taught, they would be morose and horribly depressed. But instead they were happy.

So Westerners came up with a theory of what they called the great tradition versus the little tradition, i.e. the great tradition being what was in the texts and the little tradition being Buddhism on the ground. But what they really missed was the central message in the texts, which is that your happiness is in your hands. And that true happiness comes from behaving in a way that’s totally harmless. And not just harmless in the sense that you’re not going to hurt other people, but also that you’re going to positively do good by practicing generosity as an important part of the path. This is how the Buddha’s message is empowering. You can create a happy life by acting in ways that are noble and good.

You see this in the Buddhist tradition all the way from the time of the Buddha’s funeral. Even though the Buddha had just passed away, there was singing and dancing at his funeral in honor of him. On the one hand, people were sad that he had gone, but on the other, they were honoring the fact that they had been alive when there had been such a wonderful human being in the world. The same with the temple fairs in the very early centuries: They were very happy occasions because everyone got together to do good. Social caste didn’t mean anything. Everybody was working together, helping in line with their talents and abilities.

So it is possible to create a good society. Whenever one gathers around the principle that true happiness comes from being harmless, being helpful, training the mind — that’s empowering. And you don’t need to have political power in the world outside. You have the power to create your own world right here, right now through your actions.
From: In Charge of Your World by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Mon Mar 20, 2017 2:52 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:[The Buddha] simply taught basic principles for people who want to wise up: The first principle is to realize that your actions are important, that they make a difference, that they come from your ideas and intentions, and that they can be changed for the better. Second, focus on what really is your responsibility, and let go of things that are not. Third, train your mind to develop better and better answers to the question that focuses on what you're really responsible for: what you can do that will lead to your long-term welfare and happiness. Then take advantage of the tools the Buddha offers so that it's easier to give up the things that you like doing that are harmful, and to get yourself to do the things that are difficult but will lead to the long-term happiness you want.
From: Wisdom for Dummies by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by Idappaccayata » Mon Mar 20, 2017 11:14 pm

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The furniture may be exquisite,
And the bars of solid gold,
But once the bird realizes that the cage is a cage,
It finds within that cage
No joy

- Ajahn Jayasaro

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Tue Mar 21, 2017 10:16 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:In the sutta on the frames of reference [DN22], the Buddha talks about being aware of the body in and of itself, either internally or externally. "Externally" means how the body relates to the world outside. In other words, you don't have to be only inside the body for it to count as Right Mindfulness. When you're dealing with other people, you need to have a frame of reference that includes the outside world but doesn't grab hold of it. You can stay tuned in to the body even as you're involved in dealing with other people, being sensitive to how those dealings register with the body. Then when you're sitting again with your eyes closed, you can make your frame of reference totally internal if you like. Or you can tune in to the sense of space that permeates the body and extends out in all directions.

So there are a lot of different things to tune in to that would qualify as the body in and of itself. It's important to realize this because sometimes we fall into an ironclad notion that only certain kinds of awareness count as mindfulness. We feel that we're strapped there and can't function. There are reports of people who go for long retreats where they've been working on only one kind of mindfulness for three months and when they come out they can't function. It takes them a couple of days to readjust to being in the outside world. Well, the Buddha didn't have us practice so that we couldn't function, couldn't adjust, couldn't adapt. He simply wants you to be conscious and deliberate about the way you adapt: the different levels, the different layers, the different frequencies you're tuning in to. If you can shift levels mindfully, you're okay.
From: Varieties of Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Wed Mar 22, 2017 2:18 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Ajaan Suwat’s quick and ready answer to the question as to what causes suffering was: “your likes” — things that you like to do, things that you like to focus on, that you like to enjoy. And those are very hard to give up because we tend to identify ourselves around them. We often feel that if we aren’t able to pursue our likes, then what’s the purpose of doing anything at all?

One of the purposes of concentration is to give you something better to like. Once you’ve got the sense of well-being that comes with the concentration, you realize that the pleasure that comes from this is the pleasure you’re looking for anyhow in all those other things, and it’s a lot more solid, a lot more reliable, and a lot more blameless. The mind is a lot clearer. This is the kind of pleasure that doesn’t require you to take anything away from anyone else. Then, using this, you can start looking back on those other desires and say, “I don’t really go for those anymore.” Things you used to like a lot: You’ve basically matured, you’ve outgrown them because you have a new range of skills.
From: Choose Your Cravings Wisely by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Fri Mar 24, 2017 6:08 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:[In AN8:53], the values of dispassion and being unfettered run counter to the pursuit of sensuality and to the sense of “I,” “mine,” “we,” and “ours” that underlie family life. The value of shedding runs counter to the domestic desire to accumulate as a protection against future lack; because this value includes the shedding of pride, it also runs counter to the desire for prominence in social affairs. The value of contentment runs counter to the domestic concern with accumulating wealth and stockpiling for the future; the value of modesty, counter to the desire for fame and recognition; and the value of seclusion, counter to the domestic desire to be surrounded by loved ones. The value of being unburdensome, on its face, coincides with the domestic value of frugality, but on a deeper level – in light of the fact that the act of creating a family places extra burdens on the environment to feed and support more people – it counsels celibacy as the ideal way to be unburdensome. Thus it runs directly counter to the domestic idea that the creation of a family is a gift to the world. As for persistence, both the Dhamma and domestic society value persistence in the pursuit of one’s aims, but they differ widely in their understanding of what those aims should be.

All of this means that the task of the Udāna is to convey – and make convincing – the countercultural message that the reader would be wise to focus on the drawbacks of many of the values and structures in which he/she has been nurtured since childhood, and to see the advantages of taking on a more demanding set of values in their place.
From: Udāna: Exclamations: Translator's Introduction by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sat Mar 25, 2017 9:38 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:There’s a sutta [AN7:49]where the Buddha talks about different motivations for being generous. And the lowest one of course is, “I’ll get this back with interest.” But still that’s a good motivation. It’s better than saying, “I don’t see any need to be generous at all.” There’s so much of that out there. It’s when people begin to realize, okay, that if they really want to have wealth that lasts for a while, if they want to have well-being that lasts for a while, they’ve got to share. And that’s a meritorious motivation.

Now as you work up the levels of motivation, you finally get to the ones where it’s simply a natural expression of the mind. You say to yourself, “I give simply because it’s good to do this. The mind feels refreshed.” That, too, is a benefit you get from it.

So don’t look down on the idea that you’re going to get something out of this. Don’t think that it taints your merit or the goodness of your actions. It’s simply a matter of how refined you can make your sense of how you benefit from the generosity or how you benefit from the practice of virtue, how you benefit from the meditation. As your mind grows, it just gets more and more refined.
From: Don't Underestimate Merit by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sun Mar 26, 2017 2:53 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:When we're creating a narrative out of our lives, we're trying to string together only the intentions that make sense, that seem to fit into a basic shape, but when you meditate, look at what you've got here: intentions running all over the place.

That's an important insight right there. Even though it's the dismaying insight that comes from seeing how unconcentrated your mind is, it's a valuable insight. If you take it to heart and use it skillfully, it'll help deconstruct any narratives that are getting in the way of your practice. This way you'll find it easier to settle down with less and less distraction. When you can let go of the narratives, there's really a lot here to discover. Whether the meditation goes well or not, whether it goes in line with your expectations or not, that's just another narrative.

The important thing is that you really look at what's right here, right now, particularly with regard to your intentions. You have your intention to stay with the breath, and, whoops, there's another intention going off someplace else. Bring your focus back to the breath. You've learned something about the mind right there. The act of bringing it back strengthens your original intention, strengthens your resolve, and the fact that you're able to catch the mind as it's wandering off strengthens your mindfulness and alertness.

So whether things are progressing at the rate you'd like to see in your ideal narrative, that's not the point. The point is that you're looking and you're learning. Sometimes you may have more lessons to learn than you originally thought, but if you don't start from where you are, where are you going to start from? If the picture of what your mind is doing in the present moment doesn't fit into your ideal narrative, maybe it's time to question the narrative and not get impatient with the present moment.
From: The Story behind Impatience by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Tue Mar 28, 2017 12:18 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:I once knew a journalist in Bangkok who asked me why Buddhism focuses so much on suffering. He said, “I don’t have any suffering in my life. Why all the talk about suffering?” So I asked him if he had any stress in his life and he said, “Oh yeah, lots and lots of stress.” And he proceeded to tell me all the different things in his family and his work that were stressing him out.

So regardless of what you call it, suffering or stress, if you’re not an arahant, you’re suffering from it. And it’s good to recognize that everybody is suffering in the same way. There are differences in the particulars, but deep down inside everybody has that same sense of being burdened, being overcome: pushed in ways they’d rather not be pushed, weighed down in ways they’d rather not be weighed down.
From: The Particulars of Your Suffering by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Wed Mar 29, 2017 1:02 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:In fact, the teachings themselves are meant to function as skillful thoughts toward the goal of Awakening. The Buddha was very clear on the point that he did not mean for his teachings to become a metaphysical system or for them to be adhered to simply for the sake of their truth value. He discussed metaphysical topics only when they could play a role in skillful behavior. Many metaphysical questions — such as whether or not there is a soul or self, whether or not the world is eternal, whether or not it is infinite, etc. — he refused to answer, on the grounds that they were either counterproductive or irrelevant to the task at hand: that of gaining escape from the stress and suffering inherent in time and the present.
From: Wings to Awakening by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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